Listening Guide Updated

Yesterday I posted a Visual Listening Guide to use with students during group classes. I accidentally included “Lydian” twice in the tonality section and forgot Locrian. The sheet has been updated. Thanks to the reader who pointed it out!

View the post here.

A Visual Listening Guide for Group Class Performances

Listening guides are like a collector’s item in my studio. The file drawers hold no less than six different forms obtained over the years from other wonderful teaching sites. Unfortunately, none of them have hit it spot on for me, so last year I finally came up with my own.

Inspired by the Listening Card Race from Pianimation, this listening guide uses small visual cues and descriptors. This sheet is wonderful to use for student performances during group class to keep students engaged in listening to the music (and performance) actively.

My recommendation would be to go over the sheet first as a class and even do some demonstrations. With younger students, I sometimes even like to have them pronounce the words together to make sure they feel comfortable with the terms.

Laminating the sheets will keep them in good shape for repeated use. Sometimes we use dry-erase markers, but I prefer to simply have students use game markers such as pennies, Japanese erasers, or the clear flat marbles that you see.

Note: I don’t necessarily expect students to write down answers to the question of for “Mood,” etc. They can simply be prepared with a verbal answer.





Friday Finds #111

Thanksgiving Edition

For some reason, the month of November feels like it’s gone faster than any other month this year. Every time I think about the fact that Thanksgiving is next week I feel like reenacting the face made by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

Enjoy this week’s finds and I’ll see you in two weeks! ~Amy



Some of my favorite recipes, gadgets, and music for the holiday season can be found in Amy’s Holiday Favorites.



Chasing the Turkey board game from Susan Paradis.



Melodic dictation of Thanksgiving tunes for intermediate levels and Pumpkin pie listening thermometers from  Compose Create.



When we lived in Australia, one of my favorite chefs to watch on TV was the Canadian show French Food at Home hosted by Laura Calder. As we’re coming into a season of having our homes full of family, food, and friends, it’s the perfect time to share her book The Inviting Life: An Inspirational Guide to Homemaking, Hosting and Opening the Door to Happiness.

“The Inviting Life” what a beautiful idea!



#GivingTuesday is a large part of the upcoming season. As an independent teacher, if you’re looking for ways to give back to the profession, consider the MTNA Foundation Fund.



Speaking of giving…

If you use Amazon for shopping at all, consider connecting with a non-profit through before doing all your holiday shopping. For example, our local creative arts organization and the church camp Drew and I support both have an organizational account. Simply do your shopping at rather than on and 0.5% of your purchases will go back to your organization of choice without costing you any extra!



Lauren just shared a great little challenge she gave to her piano students. Maybe you’ll find the December Studio Challenge a great fit for your student next month!



Journals and diaries have never worked for me – I’ve tried over the years and it never lasts. The idea of the “One-line-a-day” journal is very appealing to me though and I’m thinking of doing this in 2019. It seems like a simple and yet beautiful way to reflect on life. Does anyone do this and if so what do you think? Do you have a particular journal you like? This is the one I’m looking at purchasing. Share in the comments!



Have you seen Natalie’s new website? It looks amazing  – so simple and fresh. Check it out!



Thanksgiving often is focused on the blessings of health, position, family, friends, home, and belonging – all good things, but perhaps we should consider also giving thanks for spiritual blessings – the kind that has value beyond life on earth.

This beautiful song written by Keith and Kristy Getty focus on the spiritual blessings. They state:

In “My heart is filled with thankfulness” we give thanks to God for spiritual blessings – past, present and future:  what Christ has done for us – for forgiveness and new life, which only He could bring by coming here to earth and suffering for us…for how He walks beside us each day and having lived, breathed and walked here on earth…for how He promises to be with us whatever our future holds.



Piano Teacher Must-Have’s

A Minimalist’s List

As the time gets closer and closer for us to move into our new home and eventually my new studio, I’ve come to realize just how much STUFF I have in my studio that will have to be moved.

While dreading the thought of relocating all these things, I began to ponder what it would be like to have a “minimalist” studio.

If I were a brand new teacher or if I had to start all over again in a very small space, what are the items that would be “must-haves”?

Thus was born this “minamalist’s list.” Keep in mind that we’re talking bare bones. This list does not include equipment (like a piano),  office equipment like computers and printers, or pedagogical books.

I look forward to hearing some of your “must-haves” in the comments!


A Copy of Your Favorite Method Book

This is my first recommendation because it’s one of the most basic and important in my opinion.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either wanted to have a look at a students method book while lesson planning, needed a copy so I could make a video lesson for a student or simply need an extra copy when a student forgets their book. Whatever method you use the most, keep one extra copy on hand at all times!



Office Supply Must-Have

Post-its are kind of a “must-have” in any teacher’s world. I couldn’t go without these 1/2″ x 1 3/4″ Post-its for marking assigned pages. I like the paper ones because I can also write on them if needed as opposed to the plastic-type tabs.

Erasable pens, markers, and colored pencils are God’s gift to teachers. I have four specific recommendations in this area.

Frixion Erasable Colors 12-pack.

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Friday Finds #110

This past week must have been a pretty dull week because I couldn’t find a photo worthwhile to share, so I’m jumping back just a bit.

This photo is from our Indiana State Conference in early October where we had Dr. Christopher and Katherine Fisher (Piano Safari) as our Pedagogy Clinicians. They were absolutely fabulous.

Dr. Fisher conducted an elementary/intermediate masterclass. Generally, we only have an advanced masterclass, so this was a treat. I’ve seen a lot of masterclasses in my career and Dr. Fisher certainly comes out on top for excellent ones. I especially loved how he engaged all the students directly in the class together as a group. (The one at the piano is my student!) I would highly recommend him (them) for your next state conference!



As I was finally resetting my mini date/time clock in my studio this week (a little late) following the daylight savings time change, I realized I don’t think I’ve ever shared the awesome little clock I keep next to the piano. (Forgive me if I have!)

It’s perfect because it’s really small – so I can keep it out of the eye line of students and it can alternate the date with the time! (Optional)



Lauren has put together a nice list of resources for those of you who teach using the Piano Safari Method.



These binder dividers are what I use in my student binders. They are incredibly durable and reusable.

We keep our assignment sheets in the very front on top of the dividers, then label the dividers: Mastered Pieces (that’s where we keep our 40-piece challenge lists), Memorized Pieces (again, a list) and then from there, it varies depending on the student.



Sandi Patty has one of the biggest voices I’ve ever heard. She was especially popular when I was growing up. Here’s an interview with her: Listening to God’s Voice and Finding Your Own: An Interview with Sandi Patty.



Joy Wilson, the baker extraordinaire and woman behind one of the most famous cooking blogs, Joy the Baker, shows us how she hosts friendsgiving.

I can’t wait to have a “friendsgiving” someday (gotta finish the house first)!



It’s gotten chilly around here this week – the perfect week to break out the first round of chili this season. 🙂

Chili, like meatloaf, is one of those foods for me that I like, but I’m really picky about and have never quite found a recipe that I absolutely love. Until now.

This Simple & Tasty Slow Cooker Chili was SO GOOD. I used fire roasted diced tomatoes, and our homemade venison stock in it which I’m sure added to the goodness. We like to top it with a dollop of our homemade plain greek yogurt, shredded sharp cheddar, and some kind of crunchy (I like Fritos! :-/)



Want To Keep Your Brain Sharp? Take Care Of Your Eyes And Ears



For a limited time, anyone can get free shipping on anything from Amazon with no minimum purchase. Wow, that’s a pretty amazing deal.



This side-by-side trailer video of Aladdin from 1992 and 2019 is kind of cool! It’s amazing how far the animation world has come.



Finally, How to Trim Your Own Bangs at Home Like a Pro



Creating a Studio Legacy with Student Photo Boards

A Canva Tutorial [Video]

This is my current student photo board.

Students are not displayed from oldest to youngest, but by how long they’ve been studying with me – moving from left to right and top to bottom.

Every photo includes the student’s picture, their first name, and the month and year they started taking piano lessons at Studio 88.

The white spaces are inspiring quotes. I could have filled them all up individually if I had included my adults, but I assumed they would want anonymity. (After one of them asked why they weren’t on the photo board, I realized next time I should just ask if I could include them rather than assume!)

Today I want to show you how you can create a photo board like this using an online design studio called Canva.

First, I want to briefly share what got me started on having a student photo board.


Who’s the Team?

One of the hottest series here on Piano Pantry is called the Varsity Musician’s Playbook. Written by a good friend of mine, the series focuses on how we can develop thriving studios and students who are deeply committed using principles from team sports.

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Friday Finds #109

Has anyone been to New Orleans? If so, you may have visited Cafe Du Monde. My husband was there last week for a big conference/training with Tableau Software.

He and his colleagues visited the cafe three times for Beignets over the week! LOL. Luckily he knows me well and brought home a box of the mix as well as their famous coffee with Chicory. Fun!



Nice and simple sticker charts for reviewing technique exercises in the keys of C/Am, G/Em, and F/Dm from Piano Safari.



Practice Strategy: Video-Game Start-Overs from Color In My Piano. P.S. My best memories of childhood video games is on Atari! I also loved the old computer game Oregon Trail. I’m really dating myself now…



Music Learning Theory basics brought to you in a fun and easy way from one of the best in the business. I absolutely love RG’s style!



Drew and I got on the Magic Eraser bandwagon last year when we bought our Quadra-Fire fireplace as they’re brilliant for cleaning the glass. Here are a few more Magic Eraser products that exist if you’re a fan.



How to Market Childhood Music Programs to Millennial Parents.



We’re approaching the gift-giving season. I know I’ve mentioned this product before on Piano Pantry, but I love it so much, I wanted to share it again as we go into this season.

Birchbox is a subscription box that sends you five product samples each month. The 3-month subscription is an awesome gift for a teenage daughter, or mom, or even a guy you know who likes those kinds of things – they have Birchbox for men!



How to Minimize Jet Lag and Perform Your Best When Crossing Multiple Time Zones.



You CAN Afford an Adjustable Bench from The Piano Studio.



Chocolate-Covered Chai Tea Bars. Sold.



What’s in Season in November.


Happy weekend, everyone! ~Amy



Teaching Syncopation with Rocket Man

On the assignment sheet I’m currently using with students there is a practice reflection that also includes a space for students to write down a piece they would like to learn.

“What piece would you like to learn?” is one of my favorite questions on the practice diary. Not only is it an opportunity for the student to communicate their musical interests with me, but it’s opened my eyes to new music. It’s amazing to see how many students push themselves to learn to play repertoire much harder than their “level” – especially when it’s a song they really want to play.

Giving students some autonomy and choice in music is also important for retention. For more on that, check out the post: A Picture Number is Worth a Thousand Words: Studio Retention-Rate Marketing.

One of my students who plays around the late-intermediate level recently wanted to play Rocket Man. is my go-to place for all individual song requests. The arrangement I found for her has proven to be an excellent study in syncopation and is challenging her rhythm skills.

Perhaps you have a student who may enjoy it as well?

Here is the arrangement of Rocketman on

Just for fun, here’s the Offical Music Video for Rocket Man.


Assignment Sheet with *that* Emoji Updated

A reader contacted me and asked if I would consider tweaking her favorite assignment sheet – #15 – on Assignment Sheet Central. Why?

Well, the “practice cake” graphic that shows students the steps for good practice kind of looked like *that* emoji. Yeah, you know which one I’m talking about. Don’t make me say it.

Well, OK…it is what it’s is.

It looks like the poop emoji. There. I said it. Do you agree?

In my defense, I’m pretty sure the poop emoji did not even exist when I created this assignment sheet.

That being said, I had to agree with her and thus, created a new design. Since the assignment sheet is titled “Practice Steps,” I thought it would be more fitting to use the visual of actual stair steps rather than a cake.

Like what you see? See more where that came from on Assignment Sheet Central.


Friday Finds #108

This past week was one of those weeks where I finally had a chance to work on a bunch of projects that always get cast aside due to the busyness of life. My husband has been gone since Sunday on a work-related training and I’m playing it solo.

Amongst my to-do list was updating my student photo board – a project I would normally like to have done by the first of September…

Despite the fact that my amateur photography skills had a hard time catching a good photo without reflections, I’m thrilled with how it looks this year.

Stay tuned for a “how-to” post in the next few weeks!



Catching up on Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast recently, there were two, in particular, I found fascinating. One is somewhat music related and one not.

Anthems, Pledges, and Change: Where does change come from?

The Deletionists: Who decides what we know?



Reflections on the story of how Julie Andrews lost her voice and then found a new one on Becoming Minimalist.



Throat Coat is one of the best teas to have on hand for the winter months when colds and sore throats are prevalent.

It will become your new best friend, especially if you’re a voice teacher. We even keep it on hand on our breakfast food cart for the music worship team at church.



Speaking of being sick…we all know chicken soup has been dubbed the best thing to eat when you’re sick, but I have a problem with that. What if you don’t like chicken noodle soup?!

In all my 38 years I have never found chicken noodle soup recipe I really like – until now (and I am so relieved!). I mean, who doesn’t like chicken noodle soup?!

The best thing about this recipe is that it is chock full of other good nutrient-rich ingredients for when you’re feeling under the weather. Perfect. Here it is!

The Best Chicken Soup You’ll Ever Eat from The Ambitious Kitchen.

Besides the goodies like ginger, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, it uses pearled couscous instead of noodles! Love it.



My most advanced student just choose her Christmas book this week and we were both mesmerized. It was the first time I had discovered and used Kevin Olson’s Advanced Jazzed Up Christmas. If she wasn’t going to play from it this season, I was!


It was a strong contender with Phillip Keveren’s Jingle Jazz which just became MY new Christmas book to play from for this season!




If you’re still on the search for Christmas repertoire, definitely check out Leila’s new arrangement of O Come, O Come, Emmanual which she has woven with “Pavane” by Faure´.



There are a couple of professional opportunities and deadlines approaching if you’re interested:

Apply for MTNA Studio Teacher Fellowship – Deadline November 1.   The winner gets a $3,000 cash award! I wish I had known about this award in my early years of opening my studio…

Proposals for the 2019 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy are also due November 1.